Reflective intelligence sharpens your perceptions and responses to any event or any issue. You can discover and examine complex patterns of thinking that could derail your resilience and rewire them if you wish to.
You can teach yourself to pause and become present. At that moment, notice, accept, and observe increasingly complex objects of awareness such as sensations, emotions, patterns of thought, beliefs, assumptions, values, and points of view. Mindfulness even allows us to observe the processes of the brain that creates those mental contents and shift them to something more flexible and open-minded when necessary.
Some people think of mindfulness as a kind of thinking or cognition. Rather, mindful awareness is more about being with rather than thinking about knowing what you are experiencing while you are experiencing it. This awareness and reflection about experience (and your reactions to your experience) creates choice points in your brain. You can pause and respond flexibly to whatever is happening, moment by moment by moment.
Here’s my own recent story of using response flexibility. Recently, one of my best friends lost her husband. Two days later, I was driving in my car with my dog in the back seat. As I was driving, I was in deep thoughts about my empathy and sorrow for my friend. Not paying attention and being mindful to my driving, I almost ran a red light and I caught myself slamming on the breaks. As I paused and reflected on my thoughts, I could hear my inner dialect, “What the hell are doing?” “You, Scout and other people could have been hurt.” Then I remembered how I was thinking about my friend and her family prior to slamming on the breaks. Instead of beating myself up, I thoughts words of compassion, like just drive home and take some time to rest and process the deep sorrow that I had in my heart for my friend. This pause and response flexibility was much more productive in healing my emotions. Being mindful, I knew I had a choice to shift my thinking to a voice of acceptance and understanding. The truth was that everyone was safe and I did not run the red light, even though it was close.
Life can be messy and challenging.
I can shift my thinking.
If I can shift my attitude in this moment.
I can shift my attitude in any moment.
This was all said more eloquently by Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who survived three and half years in Nazi concentrations camps, including Auschwitz:
“Between a stimulus and a response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Mindfulness helps us notice what’s happening in the moment, and our reaction to what’s happening in the moment. We can catch the moment and make a choice. We can shift our attitude, our outlook, we can shift our choices of behaviors in any moment. That reflective choosing supports our response flexibility. That is the response flexibility that allows us to be resilient.
Julie Morvant, LPC
Julie uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Systems, and Solution-focused therapy in her sessions. She enjoys working with individuals, teenagers, couples and families. Christian counseling using scripture is available upon request.